Alison Krauss has got folks in Nashville talking.

They're touting her as the next big country-and-western recording star, with a voice akin to that of a young Dolly Parton.

"Shoot!" declares the 19-year-old fiddle player, "I love her singing. If anyone says my name in the same breath with her, that will swell my head to last a couple of years!"

But she's not interested in becoming a C&W star. She's strictly a bluegrass artist who's been winning fiddle contests all over the place since she was 12 years old. .

"I have played in country and western," she says, flippantly. "I don't really feel that I have accomplished enough in bluegrass to start diggin' around in other areas. Bluegrass attracts me enough not to look around to other things."

She first learned to play violin at 5. "One of the requirements of being a child in my family was take up an instrument for five years," she says of growing up in Champaign, Ill., "and my mom didn't want drums banging around all the time."

Krauss, like most kids, wasn't really into practicing Mozart. So her mom bribed her: taught her to play bluegrass and let her compete in a fiddle contest at the county fair.

At 12, Krauss started touring, playing bluegrass festivals in the Midwest. Of course, she didn't realize then that it would turn out to be her life's ambition.

"I couldn't decide if I wanted to be a roller derby queen or play violin," she recalls. "I didn't think about it too much -- except that it was fun. Now, it's the plan. I don't ever want to stop playing."

Alison Krauss & Union Station are performing at the Birchmere on Friday night at 9. Tickets are $12.50 and available at TicketCenter. For information, call 549-5919.